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Is psychological abuse domestic violence?

When fists start flying or someone gets shoved into a wall, those are usually clear signs that a relationship is abusive. However, psychological abuse can be just as effective at controlling someone—and, since it is harder to demonstrate to others, it can be more easily denied or overlooked.

But make no mistake about it: Psychological abuse is a form of domestic violence, and the damage it does to you can be severe.

What types of psychological ploys can an abuser use to control and injure you?

1. Economic Games

Financial abuse is actually a type of subtle psychological abuse because it helps the abuser exert control over you and can make you feel powerless.

It can include things like simply tightly controlling all of the household money, forcing you to ask for permission to buy even basic necessities. Withholding access to the bank accounts is common, and he or she may punish you for any financial mistakes—which may be arbitrarily based on his or her opinion. For example, your spouse might say you overspent on groceries and then cut your grocery allowance in half to “teach you to economize.”

2. Verbal Threats and Taunts

Verbal abuse is another common method of psychological abuse. The abuser might yell at you, criticize your physical features and belittle everything you do to make it seem valueless. He or she may also do things like threaten to hit you or tell you that you are “lucky” he or she doesn’t beat you.

3. Sexual Intimidation

Sexual abuse is often part of psychological abuse. Many people still aren’t aware that they have the legal right to refuse to have sex with their spouse—so they accept forced sexual acts as just part of marriage. The abuser may also degrade you sexually or accuse you of having affairs for no reason.

If you plan on leaving your abuser, one of the things you need to do is start documenting the abuse. Talking to a therapist, keeping a journal and allowing other people to actually witness the abuse (if you’ve worked to keep it hidden out of embarrassment) are all good ways to start building a record that can be taken into court.

For more information, talk to a domestic violence attorney today. Remember that you aren’t alone—it’s estimated that anywhere from 35 percent to 80 percent of high-conflict divorces involve domestic violence.

Source: HelpGuide.Org, “Domestic Violence and Abuse,” accessed Feb. 17, 2017

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